Villaverde, Cirilo (1812–1894)

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Villaverde, Cirilo (1812–1894)

Cirilo Villaverde (b. 28 October 1812; d. 20 October 1894), Cuban writer. Villaverde was born on a sugar plantation and, as a young writer and lawyer in Havana, he wrote romantic stories and accounts of his travels in his home province, Pinar del Río. Dedicated to freeing Cuba from Spanish control, Villaverde favored annexation by the United States and, to that end, worked as a secretary for General Narciso López. Because of his conspiratorial activities, Villaverde was imprisoned by the Spaniards in 1848. One year later, he escaped to the United States, where he worked as a teacher, married fellow Cuban Emilia Casanova, and continued contributing to Spanish-speaking publications.

Villaverde resided in the United States until 1858, and then again from 1861 until his death. In 1882 he published Cecilia Valdés, a novel about Spanish colonialism and slavery in early-nineteenth-century Cuba. It shows how the Cuban oligarchy's push toward modernization of the sugar industry had dramatic consequences for the slaves, symbolized by the book's eponymous female protagonist. With this novel of manners, more than with any other work, Villaverde secured his place in Cuban literary history.

See alsoHispanics in the United States; Literature: Spanish America.


Imeldo Alvarez, ed., Acerca de Cirilo Villaverde (1982).

Reynaldo González, Contradanzas y latigazos (1983).

William Luis, Literary Bondage (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Artalejo, Lucretia. La máscara y el marañón: La identidad nacional cubana. Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1991.

Casanova-Marengo, Ilia. El intersticio de la colonia: Ruptura y mediación en la narrativa antiesclavista cubana. Madrid: Iberoamericana; and Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert, 2002.

Molina, Sintia. El naturalismo en la novela cubana. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

                                              Ineke Phaf

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Villaverde, Cirilo (1812–1894)

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